An empty building, especially a big one in a very noticeable location, does not look good for Platte County. Last week, the Dairy Farmers of America announced plans to build a $30 million headquarters in Kansas City, Kan. If you don’t know (and I guess some probably don’t realize), the DFA currently headquarters right along the main artery in Platte County.
You know those giant buildings that look like they’re made of a lot of blue-tinted mirrors along Interstate 29 south of KCI Airport? The DFA currently leases 72,000 square feet of space to house more than 300 employees in the one closest to the Residence Inn.
You probably drive by it often without taking too much notice.
Seeing how the migration of those employees to the fancy new spot in a burgeoning area across the state line potentially affects this county’s tax base could force a few to take more notice. Platte County treasurer Rob Willard took time to address the DFA’s decision during the Platte County Commission’s administrative session Tuesday afternoon.
Not telling you much when I say he was disappointed — a sentiment shared by leaders tied to this side of the Missouri line.
“It’s unfortunate that we have gone through this wasteful and destructive bidding war that doesn’t result in any additional new jobs added to the area,” Kansas City mayor Sly James said in a statement. “We can no longer define economic development as engaging in self-destructive bidding wars with our neighbors who, like us, could put these funds to more productive purposes.”
Yes, DFA will receive some tax breaks to make the move to the Village West area, which has added businesses, retail and other attractions during the past decade. That’s where the Legends shopping complex, some of Cerner Corp.’s offices, Kansas Speedway and Sporting Kansas City’s Sporting Park are already located.
There’s a large Target, Nebraska Furniture Mart and plenty of dining options, too.
It’s certainly a destination, but who knows how the decision plays out if the seductive tax breaks aren’t thrown around. Missouri did its part to try and bid on helping DFA out, but its officials decided to leave Platte County with a large hole to fill.
Attracting one company to occupy that amount of space won’t be easy.
Alicia Stephens, director of the Platte County Economic Development Council (PCEDC), said she doesn’t know yet if the the building owner would subdivide the space upon DFA’s departure but assumes that will be a possibility. DFA plans to open its new headquarters in December of 2016.
According to a release, the three-story, 100,000 square foot new building will feature “abundant glass” and will be designed to “foster increased collaboration.” I’m sure there’s more flowery language talking about Kansas’ new asset but I could only read so much before disappointment set in.
The PCEDC has touted its recent successes that include a couple of large car part manufacturers in Riverside’s Horizons Parkway industrial park. There’s also Aviation Technical Service, based out of Everett, Wash., leasing 607,000 square feet of space to run an overhaul operation for airplanes. Estimates have indicated that outfit could employ more than 1,000 in three to five years.
Those are all great, but as Willard told the county commissioners, the DFA provided a link to the proud agricultural history of Platte County and this region. Yes, the Northland continues to experience growth and development, but the rural, hometown roots still remain, making this move really tough for some to swallow.
Maybe that’s a bit ironic that Platte County would’ve needed a larger industrial footprint to hold onto a desired agriculture asset.
But the Dairy Farmers of America, formed in 1998, remains one of the area’s largest private employers with about $18 billion in revenue last year. is the area’s largest private employer by revenue, taking in $18 billion last year. About 15,000 dairy farmers own the cooperative that helps to export dairy products all across the world.
And since its start nearly two decades ago, the headquarters were right here in our backyard.
Now, that’s soon to be gone.
What the final economic impact will be on Platte County remains to be seen. I’m sure there will be predictive studies, but we won’t truly know for a while.
DFA touted the move as staying in Kansas City.
After all, the new building will be only about 20 miles from the old. There shouldn’t be a lot workers moving their homes to accomodate the new facility, but like Willard said, they are much more likely to grab lunch there than at Zona Rosa now, which could mean some net loss in the sales tax base.
Of course some of that is dependent on how long it takes to fill up that big, empty building with new jobs.
Ross Martin is publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Citizen_Ross.